Skum Strike is a brutal 2 piece death/black/speed and punk metal band and after hearing their latest release a knew an interview was in order here it is with band member LA:
When were you born and where did you grow up? What sort of teenager were you growing up?
LA: Despite the band being based in Montreal QC, we are all from different places quite far away from Montreal. LA hails from Ireland, ZS is from Singapore, and our bassist Illusory is from Newfoundland.
Dark. Brooding. Devastatingly handsome. Nah, I was your usual dorky teenager, generally obsessed with metal, fantasy and horror writing, growing my hair long and learning my way around a fretboard. I lived in the countryside so had quite a peaceful childhood, going to school in a small seaside town a short drive away.
Now how did you discover the metal scene in general? What were some of the 1st bands that you heard and are you a fan of any of those bands today?
LA: My parents got us dial-up internet when I was a teenager, and I soon found myself on a site called MetalIreland.com, which was huge for me. Suddenly I could go beyond my brother’s minimal collection of Metallica and Slayer cassettes, and connect with people who were actively participating in Ireland’s small underground metal scene. The site was great, a real hub, and I ended up contributing a lot to it and producing many, many articles for it as well as podcasts. Through that site, I learned that international “underground” metal acts did occasionally play in Dublin, my nearest big city and that we had a healthy little scene of our own. When I was 16 I got into Dublin one night and saw Cephalic Carnage play a small bar which was insanely eye-opening for me. Around that time I also saw Decapitated and Gorerotted, as well as Nile shortly afterwards. I was addicted and began to get to know people at shows, and it all flowed from there.
Now how did you discover the underground metal scene? Was this a style you took right into getting into or did it take a few listens and then you were hooked? What were some of the early bands you heard and are you still a fan of them now?
LA: The key piece of the puzzle for me really was finding my brother’s old cassette collection when I was about 14. He had things like Slayer’s Reign in Blood and Metallica’s Master of Puppets on copied cassettes, as well as Megadeth’s Rust in Peace on CD. He had moved out and lost all interest in that stuff, so to me, it was just like an amazing little treasure trove of crazy music that had me hooked very quickly. It didn’t take long! Of course, I’m still fan of these bands’ classic periods – you would need to be nuts not to be. Then with the internet, I expanded into other subgenres. A key moment was when a guy I knew on the MetalIreland forum sent me a burnt CD with Primordial, Arcturus, Emperor, Morbid Angel, and lots more. It blew my tiny mind to pieces to be exposed to that sudden variety and legendary bands.
Now you guys are a 2 piece band. I don’t know who is doing the interview, unless you both are. So what made you pick up the particular instrument you play and what are some of your favorite players?
LA: I actually started playing bass before guitar. Hearing Cliff Burton’s bass solo on Kill Em All made me really want to give it a go, and with a lot of my friends at school already playing guitar, it was something different. I ended up playing guitar with some friends when I went to college and finally started a band. Favorite players are very hard for me as I’m really not much of a techincally schooled player. I loved Tom G from Celtic Frost for just getting so much from such a primitive sound. Trey from Morbid Angel and Hanneman from Slayer too obviously for the speed and power. I was a big fan of bands that could play in a very specific and distinctive metal style, so really looked up to players like Akerfeldt from Opeth and Anders Nyström from Katatonia, but I never really tried to emulate them, haha.
So how did the 2 of you find each other and how long were the both of you together before you released your self-titled 2017 demo? What are your thoughts on the demo these days and how long did it take for it to come together?
LA: ZS and I had known each other since about 2013 via a mutual Irish friend, but went I finally moved to Montreal permanently in 2016, we started to jam late in that year. In fact, I think our first jam night was the night Trump was elected haha. The songs for the demo came together quite quickly but you can clearly hear we are trying to find our style and are not very accomplished sounding. The demo is just a snapshot of our very early days. Recording it was a pain if I remember correctly. Our engineer had a big technical problem with his gear, and I had to trek out to his apartment way out in the suburbs to finish the bass recording. All very messy but it gave us a basis to kick off.
How did you come up with the band name and logo for the band and were any other names considered?
LA: We just wanted something that would convey speed and filthiness. I don’t think we considered anything else. We came up with it and were like “Yep, let’s go with that.” Influences from bands like Avskum could be inferred from the spelling. Logo was done by Emmett Connell, a very talented Irish graphic designer that did it for us. He nailed it.
How was the response from people that heard it?
LA: The band name? People seem to really dig it haha. I guess it’s a good indication of how we sound. For the demo, it kind of sank without a trace. I think a distro might have picked up a few copies from us. All for the best really considering how basic it is.
Next up, was a 5 song release. How easy was it getting these 5 songs put together and how do you feel it differs from the demo? What was the response from people that heard this and do you feel it was a step up from the demo?
LA: Yes, next up was the ‘Pure Coercion’ tape which was a big step up. We spent quite a good bit of time working on it. You can hear the songs are much more complex and intense. We had started to play live with a bassist so the general level of tightness had increased. I think you can hear a germ of the sound we have now in this tape. The recording quality isn’t very strong but I think it’s a reasonably listenable tape.
To take a question off from the band, what were some of the shows that you have seen over the years and how has the seen been over in Ireland over the past years since you have been in the scene?
La: I’ve been to millions of shows over the years so I’ll stick to the Irish scene. Ireland has always had a very small scene that rises and falls throughout the years. There are elder statesmen in the scene who help to keep things going and I think we owe them a lot. I’m thinking of people like Brian ‘Scobes’ Taube who runs Sentinel Records and Darragh who runs Invictus. That slightly older generation gave us our great Irish underground metal bands like Mourning Beloveth and Primordial, who are both still going strong and have a healthy fanbase abroad these days. I think the scene went through a bit of a dip recently, but nowadays you have some killer bands still at it and it’s a very diverse mix. I’m thinking of the likes of Unyielding Love, Abaddon Incarnate, Soothsayer, Coscradh, Wild Rocket, Venus Sleeps, Procession of Spectres, Corr Mhona, Malthusian, Grief Eater, Slomatics, Zhora, and more. If you look hard enough, there is an Irish band doing something good in any subgenre, and we have very good groups making Death Metal, Black Metal, Space rock, Doom, Grind, you name it. The regular Siege of Limerick festivals are a shining showcase of the underground doing it right and it’s great to see their continued success. Ireland’s punk scene is quite separated from the metal scene but I think it’s also going through a resurgence lately. Some of my favourite Irish punk/HC bands down through the years include Disguise, Crowd Control, Drainland, Revolution of a Sun, and many more. That scene keeps bubbling away.
What I find different is this is the only band you too are in and you are not in any other bands. Have you been asked to join any other bands since the band started?
LA: We are both in different bands, we just don’t advertise it that much. I also play in Profane Order, a Black/Death project from Montreal which has a new record coming out shortly, while ZS plays with Serpent Corpse, a Montreal metal punk band that has just recorded its first album. ZS also still plays in Xanadoo, a Singaporean thrash metal band, when possible.
In 2020, we saw some changes with the band as you hooked up with the label Caligari Records and also a bass player recorded on this. How did you hook up with them? Did you find them or did you find them?
LA: We approached Caligari Records directly with our ‘Execution Void’ recording as we felt it was strong enough to deserve a push from a respected label. Caligari is great and has a very reasonable policy of checking out submitted releases that fit their roster. They took a chance on us as they dug the recording, and it worked out nicely. The label does a very professional job on tape production and is a pleasure to deal with.
How did the songs for this release come together and do both of you write the songs and the lyrics or is it more one of you and the other also adds things to the plate?
LA: The writing process was and still is very organic and egalitarian. I will come up with song ideas and riffs, ZS will provide his thoughts, and we will jam them heavily until we’ve pushed the quality control to a point we’re satisfied with. Both of us are on the same wavelength when it comes to the sound and quality that we want. We then make adjustments and arrange things for vocals. You can hear a fair amount of diversity in the song types on ‘Execution Void’ and that’s just us keeping things interesting for ourselves in the songwriting.
You also had a bass player on this release, a player called “FD”. How did you find him and how good of a job do you feel he did on this release?
LA: That was our good friend Fred, who we are still in touch with. Previously he played in the Montreal power-violence band Banal, which is how we originally made contact. Eventually, we went our own ways, but he’s a great dude and we had a lot of fun together in the band while he was with us.
What was the response from the underground to this release? With you having a bass player, were you able to play any live shows or have you in the past used session live players?
LA: I think ‘Execution Void’ was our first seriously put-together release, and off the back of it, more show offers and interest started to appear. It certainly took us to a higher gear. Working with Pat McDowall of Spectral Wound in doing the recording made a huge difference to the quality and I loved the job he did on it, all over a single weekend. We played plenty of fun shows at this time, including the Varning festival in Montreal.
How does a song come together? How serious is the band?
LA: Dead serious. We’ll piss in your cornflakes and put out a cigarette in your coffee, man. But seriously, when it comes to recordings and playing live, it’s important to ensure you’re giving your all for everyone who has paid in or paid for your music. I think that’s just a given. While music is a part-time thing for us, we take it seriously, even if you see us grinning like lunatics up there sometimes.
How would you describe what the band sounds like to someone who has never heard you guys?
LA: Blackened thrash mixed with pounding d-beat and a dash of Black Metal. A proper mutant band.
Now COVID came about all over the world. Did that just take a big dent in what you were doing and in 2022 you were ready to go and record a new album?
LA: It totally slowed us down and was very disruptive, but every band from here was in the same boat. We had planned to tour in the US in 2020 and had dates down the east coast planned, and that went out the window. With it dragging on for so long, we decided to write throughout 2021 and produce a full album. Even this was hard though, as it was illegal here to gather and even jam in a room. Finally, we did record in the summer of 2021 with the album coming out last April. We’re just very happy to be through it now, and being able to play shows again.
We fast forward to 2022 and the bass player is gone and you have just released your 1st full-length called “Deadly Intrusions” also on Caligari Records. Before we talk about the full length, what happened with the bass player or was he a fill-in for the EP?
LA: Skumstrike is still very much a two-piece, consisting of LA and ZS, but we work with live bassists whenever possible, including during writing sessions. However, the difficulty of jamming during COVID was part of the reason that FD left the band prior to the album recording, but there was no bad blood, things just worked out that way.
At this point did you feel it was time for a full-length for the band? How did it take for the coming of this to come together? How long were you in the studio for this?
LA: Yes, we felt the time was nigh to do something more ambitious. When we regained the ability to jam somewhat, we knew we should take the time to really work on the riffs and song structures. I think it was about three months of regular rehearsals and writing, but we did all the recordings in one long weekend. Pat McDowall’s professionalism made that possible for us, which is why we’ve done the last two releases with him. We were quite prepared so things went smoothly for us. It’s quite a raw recording, with very little added in the post-production, which probably contributes to its creation being relatively straightforward.
On this new release, you do a cover tune of the band Poison Idea called “Nothing Is Final”. What made you pick that band and that particular song?
la: We both really like Poison Idea but the idea was that, as a band with quite a bit of punk and d-beat in our DNA, we would choose a track that was more purely punk rather than a big metal anthem. I am more of a ‘Feel the Darkness’ fan but ZS really liked this one, and he sold it to me. It was very technically challenging which I did not expect, but the relentless way that Pig Champion plays is quite tough to emulate. It’s a fair straightforward cover but we enjoy it.
I love the new release. How has the response been to it so far? How did you come up with the title for it and the cover art?
LA: Thank you! The response has been great. People seem to really dig it, and we’ve been blown away by the reviews and orders that have been coming in. Being from Ireland, one of our favourite ways to say something is really good is to say it is ‘deadly’. However, it was ZS that came up with the title! Maybe he was inspired by me constantly using that word haha. The art was done by Indonesian artist Ibay Arafin, who we hired after we saw his work with bands like Body Void. He really just took the concepts for the songs and ran with them, which we were happy about. We wanted something primitive that would reflect the mental degradation outlined in the lyrics of the album. He did that, with lots of detail.
So what are your plans for the rest of 2022 and beyond?
LA: We have already started to write new material for the next release, whatever that might be. The plan is just to keep pushing the quality up as much as possible so we’re still excited to play the songs even years down the line. Ideally, if can do some more good shows with interesting line-ups for the rest of the year we’ll be happy, and getting on some festival bills would be great, be they in Europe or North America. We’ll see!
Please plug any social media sites you have or any merchandise you have for sale.
LA: You can hear the record and pick up tasty merch directly from us at https://skumstrike.bandcamp.com
Follow us on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/skumstrike Or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SKUMSTRIKE
Where can people pick up this fantastic release?
You can buy the cassette from Caligari Records directly from their Bandcamp
or the CD from our European label Selfmadegod Records
If you’re just after the digital version, hit up our Bandcamp
Horns up for doing this interview. Any last words to say to wrap this up?
LA: Thanks very much for your interest! Please keep supporting your local small metal-friendly venues that have survived COVID – we really need them. And finally hail to Ukraine and its defenders, a terrible war of aggression is being perpetrated on its people and the world needs to stay engaged.